Adam's helper : women's roles in evangelical churches in New Zealand from colonial times to the end of the 20th century : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that traditional historiography recorded the achievements of men but was in want of the story of women. Recent decades have seen a correction to this gender imbalance with a proliferation of writings about women, spurred on by the successes of social history. Church historians have followed this trend with a growing number of publications studying either the most notable women of the Christian faith or whole categories of women within certain periods or movements. This thesis continues that trend by considering the roles of women in the Baptist, Open Brethren and major Pentecostal denominations in New Zealand. This thesis ventures not only into the under-reported world of women but also onto the relatively untrammelled soil of the history of evangelical
The term "evangelical" refers to a significant stream of Christianity prominent in Western societies but evident around the world. Evangelicalism is notoriously difficult to define. Many have attempted – David Hubbard, What We Evangelicals Believe, Pasadena: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1979; Donald Bloesch, The Future of Evangelical Christianity: A Call for Unity and Diversity, Garden City: Doubleday, 1983; David Wells, 'No Offense, I Am an Evangelical: A Search for Self-Definition' in A Time to Speak: The Evangelical-Jewish Encounter, A J Rudin and M R Wilson (Eds.), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987; Leonard Sweet, 'Nineteenth Century Evangelicalism' in Encyclopaedia of the American Religious Experience, Charles Lippy and Peter Williams (Eds.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988 – to name a few. Noll, Bebbington and Rawlyk have mapped out the historical dimensions of evangelicalism and so include in their definition some socio-cultural elements – "a fairly discrete network of Protestant Christian movements arising during the eighteenth century in Great Britain and its colonies". Mark Noll, David Bebbington, George Rawlyk (Eds.), Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond, 1700-1990, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994, p.6. Apart from the historical linkages, commonality can be discerned in the area of core Christian theology, though even here some have conceded that "the evangelical movement defies a precise theological definition". C Norman Kraus, 'Evangelicalism: A Mennonite Critique', in The Variety of American Evangelicalism, Donald Dayton and Robert Johnston (Eds.), Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991, p.196. Another writer, in the same publication, takes up the challenge to define as succinctly as possible the core of evangelical theology – Timothy Weber, 'Premillennialism and the Branches of Evangelicalism', pp.12-14. Firstly, he acknowledges the difficulties: "At best, 'evangelicalism' is a diverse movement which at times seems to have more dividing it than uniting it. In fact, some observers find it nearly impossible to speak of evangelicalism as a single entity and prefer to see it in terms of its constituent parts." p.12. Then he offers a four-fold taxonomy of evangelicalism and attempts to identify what these four branches of evangelicalism have in common. He sees an evangelical nexus in the following doctrines: the divine inspiration and ultimate authority of Scripture; the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God; salvation from sin through faith in Christ; and commitment to a life of holiness and service in fulfilment of Christ's mission on earth. "Naturally, it wouid be easy to show that evangelical theology has included more than this; but I do not believe it ever included less." p.14. Weber adds that this theological orthodoxy "does not become 'evangelical' until it is joined to a spirit of renewal and conversion – of individuals, churches, and, at least to some extent, the world". p.14 In light of Weber's comments, and my own experience of the evangelical spectrum, the critical parameters for evangelicals are: 1) that the authority and veracity of the Bible is upheld; 2) that the person and work of Christ remain the central focus; 3) that the mission to communicate the gospel is actively pursued and not marginalised; 4) that God's principles for living are adhered to and not compromised by "worldly" standards. women in New Zealand. Rosemary Neave, Elaine Bolitho, Ruth Fry, Enid Bennett, Susan Adams, Margaret Tennant, Alan Davidson, Vivienne Adair and others have written extensively on women in the Church and particularly on women in the institutional, Protestant churches. Barbara Sampson contributed to this body of historiography by telling the stories of Salvation Army women. Barbara Sampson, Women of Spirit: Life-stories of New Zealand Salvation Army Women From the Last 100 Years, Wellington: The Salvation Army, 1993. Within the Catholic paradigm Judith Graham and Dianne Stevens have researched the stories of religious women.
Judith Graham, Breaking the Habit: Life in a New Zealand Dominican Convent, 1955-67, Dunedin: McIndoe, 1992; Diane Stevens, In Step With Time: A History of the Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth, Wanganui, Auckland: David Ling, 2001. Other writers on women in the New Zealand Catholic Church include Noeline De Courcy Noeline De Courcy, A History of the Catholic Women's League of New Zealand, 1931-1990, Dunedin: Tablet Printing, 1990. and Pauline Grogan. Pauline Grogan, Beyond the Veil: A Triumph of Love and Faith, Auckland: Penguin Books, 1996. But for the Baptist, Brethren and Pentecostal movements historiography is scarce. Elaine Bolitho
Elaine Bolitho, Meet The Baptists: Post-war Personalities and Perspectives, Auckland: Christian Research Association of NZ, 1993; 'Women in New Zealand Churches: Part 1, 1814-1939, and Part 2, 1940-1993', Stimulus, Vol.1 No. 3, Aug 1993, pp.25-32 and Vol.1 No. 4, Nov 1993, pp.28-37. and James Worsfold
James Worsfold, Women in Pentecostal Ministry: A New Zealand Perspective, Auckland: Impetus Communications, 1995. are virtually the only exponents, apart the general Church historian, Alan Davidson whose landmark work remains a key reference point Alan Davidson, Christianity in Aotearoa: A History of Church and Society in New Zealand, second edition, Wellington: The New Zealand Education for Ministry Board, 1997. supplemented by his other writings.
E.g. Alan Davidson, 'The Women's Vote – Then What?', Stimulus, Vol.1, No.4, Nov 1993, pp.22-27.